The library of the Institute is housed in some six rooms in the building that dates largely from the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. It has grown around the personal collections of its founder and first Trustee, Cecil Humphery-Smith, and from other donations and purchases, into an extensive working library.
Now consisting of nearly thirty thousand items, much of the collection is unique. It has expanded over the years, now running the full length of the first floor, and occupying passages, and the walls of the lecture hall. It has many finding aids and text books outlining which records may be of beneficial use and where they may be found, rather than original records and transcripts. However, some transcripts of records have been deposited in the library over the years.
The collection has been formed to assist the staff of The Institute and Achievements and to supplement and support the work of both professional and amateur genealogists and heraldists and students, along with those involved in the applications of these subjects. The policy of the library is to acquire source material that may be of assistance to them in the study of the history and structure of the family.
Library opening hours are 10:00 – 4:00 pm, Monday-Thursday. IHGS members have free access. The rate for non-members is £12.50 a day or £8.75 per half day. Since space in the library is limited, all members and visitors must make an appointment with the librarian so that it can be ensured that there is enough room for all whom so wish to work without interruption or discomfort. For more information, please contact the Librarian .
A brief summary of the library collection includes the following material:
- Genealogical textbooks outlining research techniques
- Genealogical source material for each county
- Published census, probate indexes and parish register transcripts and indexes
- Trade directories from 1677 to the mid 20th century
- Printed family histories and pedigrees
- Biographical dictionaries
- Professional directories
- School and university registers
- First edition Ordnance Survey maps
- Surname and Place-name dictionaries
- Harleian Society and other Visitation Series
- British Record Society pre 1858 probate indexes
- Principal Probate Registry indexes 1858-1943
- Peerage and Gentry directories
- Antiquarian genealogical periodicals
- European and American genealogy and immigration
- American, Australian, British and European genealogical journals
- Scottish Old Parochial Registers
- Heraldic dictionaries and armorials
- Original deeds
- Online research facilities